Saturday

27th May 2017

Lurid atmosphere as Ukrainians vote on EU future

  • Klitschko on the campaign beat (Photo: klichko.org)

A kidnapping on the streets of Kiev, allegations the President is a peeping Tom and that a top opposition figure ordered a gangland murder - Ukraine goes to the polls this weekend in a weird climate which counts for normality in the EU-aspirant nation.

Ballot boxes will open at 8am local time on Sunday (28 October) and close at 8pm, with exit polls expected shortly afterward.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The three main parties competing for the 450-seat parliament are President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of the Regions, world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko's Udar and the United Opposition bloc led (from behind bars) by former PM Yulia Tymoshenko and by career politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Voters are sick of both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko, but Klitschko - who is running on an anti-corruption ticket - is gaining popularity.

According to polls, the Party of Regions will get 20 to 25 percent, while Udar and the United Opposition will get 15 to 20 percent each.

The populist Communist party might get 10 percent. The Ukraine-Forward party, led by former Tymoshenko ally Natalia Korolevska and football hero Andriy Shevchenko, and the far-right Svoboda party, might each get the 5 percent they need to make it into parliament.

Several hundred "independent" candidates are also running.

But these are mostly local businessmen who get votes by handing out food or bicycles and who later back whichever party wins in order to protect their financial interests.

At stake is the future of Ukrainian democracy and rule of law, as well as its economic welfare and independence from Russia.

Analysts - such as US-based academics Alexander Motyl and Rajan Menon - say that if Yanukovych's party gets a constitutional majority (300 seats) in parliament, it will use it to reappoint him as President in 2015 despite his unpopularity.

Yanukovych has used his last two and a half years in power to jail political opponents and to amass a fortune for himself and family members.

He has also overseen a near-collapse in EU-Ukraine relations.

The signature of an EU trade and political association agreement - seen as the only alternative to Ukraine joining a Russia-dominated customs union - is on hold and ratification is a dim prospect.

With almost 4,000 international monitors in Ukraine this weekend, including 15 MEPs, mass-scale voting fraud is unlikely.

But for some, such as German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok, the election is a priori unfair because Tymoshenko cannot run.

For others, such as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, the vote lacks credibility for other reasons.

"We are concerned about reports of the use of administrative resources to favor ruling party candidates and the difficulties several media outlets face. Similarly, we are concerned about the continuation of the practice of the Central Election Commission holding closed pre-session meetings and the lack of representation of some political parties on district and precinct election commissions. Distribution of material or financial benefits to voters is another issue that should be investigated and halted," they said in an op-ed in the New York Times this week.

Meanwhile, in a country which is used to watching its MPs punch each other and throw chairs at debates in parliament, there is little that can cause surprise.

But the run-up to the vote has seen an outbreak of fresh oddities in any case.

On 17 October, Tymoshenko accused Yanukovych of getting sexual thrills by watching secret CCTV footage of her on the toilet while in prison. "What do you do with these films? Do you watch them alone or in cheerful company with friends?" she said in an open letter.

On 24 October, Ukrainian police detained Mykola Melnychenko, a former top-level bodyguard, who came back to Ukraine claiming he has evidence that Tymoshenko ordered the contract killing of a businessman in 1996.

In the latest incident, a Russian opposition activist, Leonid Razvozzhayev, who came to Ukraine to seek asylum, vanished to reappear in custody in Moscow saying that he was snatched by Russian intelligence and tortured.

"The special services of a foreign state are operating on Ukraine's territory," Tymoshenko's ally, Yatsenyuk, said, seizing the opportunity to paint Yanukovych as a Kremlin stooge.

EU 'regrets' Ukraine court decision on Tymoshenko

Ukraine’s high court decision to toss out an appeal by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko may place an additional strain on EU relations with the country, EU foreign affairs spokesperson Michael Mann told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.

Nato head defends 'blunt' US leader

Nato chief Stoltenberg defended Trump’s behaviour at Thursday’s summit. The prime minister of Montenegro also apologised for him.

Trump lukewarm on Nato joint defence

Trump voiced half-hearted support for Nato and reprimanded allies over what he called unpaid debts on his maiden trip to Europe.

Trump lukewarm on Nato joint defence

Trump voiced half-hearted support for Nato and reprimanded allies over what he called unpaid debts on his maiden trip to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms